In relational database development, there are two major areas — OLTP and OLAP. The two technologies complement each other, though there might be many differences. In general, the OLTP systems provide source data to data warehouses, while OLAP systems help to analyse it. Let’s discuss the difference between OLTP and OLAP:

Let’s jump in:


What is OLTP?

Before specifying the differentiating factors, let us understand each of them: OLTP (On-line Transaction Processing) – It is an IT system that processes data transactions. You can find OLTP systems all around you; from an ATM to text messaging through smartphones. In fact, most business applications are OLTP systems. Generally, it is characterised by a large number of short on-line transactions (INSERT, UPDATE, DELETE).

What is OLAP?

OLAP (On-line Analytical Processing) – From the ‘analytical’ part in OLAP, one can understand what this system does: analysis of data efficiently and effectively. It is an approach to handle multi-dimensional queries and works with a large amount of data. In this system, the effectiveness is measured by the response time rather than accuracy as in OLTP.


 Let us now dig deeper into the differences between the two systems:

Data Source

OLAP data comes from the various OLTP databases, whereas OLTPs are the original source of data. OLTP data is operational data whereas OLAP data is consolidation data.

Application of data

As data in OLTP is operational, it is used to run and control fundamental business tasks. E.g. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM). In OLAP, it is used in planning, problem-solving, managing information and decision support.


OLTP users are usually the front-end employees or staff. OLAP users are generally the managers, executives, data scientists, marketers or business owners.


Data processing is fast in OLTP as compared to OLAP, where it depends mainly on the amount of data. In OLTP, there is a requirement for some indexes on large tables, whereas OLAP requires more indexes.

Space requirements

The space requirements in OLTP is relatively smaller than that of OLAP if historical data is archived. However, OLAP requires more space requirements due to the existence of aggregation structures and history data, requiring more indexes.

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Updates and data refresh

Updates in OLTP system are frequent, while in OLAP it is infrequent. Data refresh in OLTP are performed fast and produce immediate results, whereas in OLAP, refreshing of data with huge data sets take time and is sporadic.

Database design

The database of OLTP is highly normalised with many tables and relationships. On the other hand, the database design of OLAP is typically de-normalised with fewer tables and uses star, snowflake or constellation schema.

Data queries

Queries in OLTP are usually standardised and simple, returning relatively fewer records than OLAP system. OLAP system often has complex queries involving aggregations.

Data on OLTP system is absolutely critical, it has a complex backup system for incremental backups. Since the data in OLAP is relatively less critical than OLTP, full data backup is required only from time to time.

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Though there is a huge difference between OLTP and OLAP, both of them performs extremely important tasks in their own area. OLTP is more of an operational system whereas OLAP is used for decision making and other activities that require complex data analysis.

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